By Tanya Connor
Easter brought new life, and recipients of that life are joyfully embracing and sharing it.
“I was very excited,” Randy Rodriguez, 17, said of his experience at the Easter Vigil at St. Paul Cathedral Saturday.
“I had all my family there. To finally receive the sacraments – I was proud of myself. Now I’m finally part of God’s Church.
“I told a couple of my teachers I made my first Communion and they were excited.” He said many of his teachers at Burncoat Senior High School are “very faithful Christians,” most of them Catholics.
Randy and his brother Ranfy, 18, were received into the Catholic Church and made their first Communion and confirmation at St. Paul’s Saturday. (They’d been baptized in the Seventh-Day Adventist church as children.)
Their father, Ruben Rodriguez, received all three sacraments of initiation – baptism, Eucharist and confirmation – as did six other people. Another man was just confirmed. All are in St. Paul’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process.
They are taking on a new way of life, putting on the mind of Christ, Bishop McManus said in his homily. He spoke of striving to be more committed Christians, more loving and joyful, and of rising to new life in Christ.
“I feel awesome,” Joseph Paradis said after receiving the three sacraments of initiation. “Honestly, I feel very refreshed.”
He spoke of a “big, new chapter” beginning in his life, even in his relationship with his wife, Vanessa Paradis. They’re married civilly and are to marry in the Church Oct. 1. He said he appreciated everyone who helped him, and that he was “ready to go and make the whole new life.”
Mr. Paradis said he’s trying to get his mother to come back to the Church. His wife said she tells him she did her part – she brought him. Now it’s his turn.
After attending the Easter Vigil, his oldest sister, who’d never been to Mass, said she wants to go with him and his wife next Sunday, Mr. Paradis said. He said he’s invited her many times, and maybe now she’ll come.
“My family (members) were never actually church people,” Mr. Paradis said. “I always had an interest in it, but never really went for it until I met my wife.”
He said he was somewhat interested because his mother was brought up Catholic and attended Catholic school. His father was not brought up in church, and his mother chose to let the children make their own decisions about church attendance, he said.
When he was about 7 the family decided to try a Christian church, he said.
“I didn’t feel very comfortable,” he recalled. “They were trying to take me off to Sunday school.” He refused to leave his parents.
“There was way too much going on for the first time at church,” he said. “Everybody was praying over our family, crying.”
That was his only experience of church, except for attending a baptism once, he said. But, he noted, whenever his family moved, a St. Joseph’s Church was nearby.
“I started dating her and she invited me to the Christmas novena” at St. Paul’s, Mr. Paradis said of his wife.
“I told him there would be food,” she joked.
“I liked it,” he said. “Everybody was cheerful. Everybody was very nice to me.”
His family is from the United States; her parents came from El Salvador. She was born in California, the family moved to Worcester when she was 3, and they’ve been involved in St. Paul’s Hispanic community ever since.
At her invitation, he started attending Sunday Mass with her, following along with an English-language missal. She invited him to a retreat.
“That was the first retreat I attended,” Mr. Paradis said. “I automatically thought: ‘vacation retreat.’ I didn’t even know there were retreats. It hit me pretty hard. It really made me reflect on things I was doing in my life. When I came out of that I found I had a stronger bond to the Catholic Church and to Jesus.”
He said he tried to pray, not sure if he was doing it “right,” and slowly got more involved with the Church.
“She told me I had to start going for my sacraments,” he said of his wife. “I had everybody in the Spanish community asking me.”
He started the RCIA process in September 2014. She joined him, figuring she could learn more about the faith.
“Everybody was very nice,” Mr. Paradis said. “No one was judgmental.” He said Deacon Franklin Lizardo, who coordinates the RCIA with his wife, Barbara, was fun, challenged participants and helped answer their questions.
One major thing Deacon Frank instilled – it’s a “huge sin” to miss Sunday Mass, Mr. Paradis said. He said the deacon told them to pull out their cell phones and find a Mass wherever they are, which he and his wife did when staying overnight in Boston.
The Rodriguez family also told part of their story, with help from Deacon Lizardo.
Randy said he and Ranfy and their brother Manueldy, 11, wanted to be involved at St. Paul’s. Three years ago Deacon Lizardo got them into the RCIA. Two years ago, their father joined the program. (People move through it at their own pace; Manueldy hasn’t received his first Communion or confirmation yet.)
Their mother, Ceneida Brito, was raised Catholic, Randy said. When their father was young his family attended the Catholic Church, then the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The two came from the Dominican Republic, met in New Jersey and have been together 20 years. Five years ago they married civilly, and now everybody’s excited that they are to marry in the Catholic Church April 17, Randy said.
He said his mother expressed gratitude that her family came into the Church. She said she’s receiving many blessings.
Young man receives sacraments, awaits marriage in the Church ‘to do it right’
By Tanya Connor
Joseph Paradis is among the 85 people in St. Paul Cathedral’s RCIA program, one of seven who received three sacraments at Saturday’s Easter Vigil. The 25-year-old is waiting half a year for a fourth sacrament – marriage.
He and Vanessa Paradis, 24, who were married civilly last year, are to celebrate their wedding in the Church on Oct. 1.
“They’re not going to live together until they get married in the Church,” said Deacon Franklin Lizardo, who coordinates St. Paul’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) with his wife, Barbara. “This is great! You only do it when you fall in love with Jesus Christ.” He said it’s another way for Mr. Paradis to show his love for his wife.
Mrs. Paradis, a lifelong Catholic, said they were married civilly because Mr. Paradis moved in with her and her parents when he needed housing.
“We should have done it the right way in the first place,” she said. Now she wants to do it the way God prescribed, she said.
Mr. Paradis said they will use separate bedrooms until the fall wedding date she chose. He said some family members and friends wonder how they will do this, but he and his wife and church members believe they can.
“You cannot be fully accepted in the Church and receive Communion if you are not married in the Church, because that would be breaking the sacrament of marriage,” Deacon Lizardo said.
He expressed admiration that Mr. Paradis, as a young man, wanted the sacraments of initiation badly enough to receive them now, rather than waiting until after his sacramental wedding. (Saturday he was baptized and received his first Communion and confirmation.)
Deacon Lizardo said parish leaders were surprised to find they had 85 people in their RCIA, some of them couples wanting to be married in the Church.
“We never saw this kind of movement in the RCIA process,” the deacon said.
He said he thinks Pope Francis is helping spark this interest by calling people to be close to God and by how he is running the Church, and “Jesus Christ is doing the rest.”
When the deacon asked people why they wanted to be Catholic, one said, “because I want to go to heaven,” he recalled, marveling at that “wonderful answer.”
Eleven of the people in the RCIA are Anglos, one is African and the rest are Hispanics, many of them children or teenagers born in the United States, he said.
“Our goal is not numbers; we just receive people,” Deacon Lizardo said. About seven couples need to be married in the Church, including Anglos, Hispanics and the Africans, he said.
The RCIA can take up to three years, he said. Participants decide if they want to begin and continue the process, and the Lizardos decide when participants are ready to move from one phase to the next. Different classes are held for people in different stages of the process, and for speakers of Spanish and English. (The Lizardos, natives of the Dominican Republic, speak Spanish and English, and others help teach and support these people.)
“It takes as long as it takes,” Elizabeth A. Marcil, diocesan director of religious education, said of this process. “It takes into account where people are coming from and what their needs are.” It aims to form disciples, not just prepare them to receive sacraments. It is to provide the community support needed for the Christian life.
“We have formal classes from September to May,” but follow up with participants all year, Deacon Lizardo said. They do social things together to make them feel like part of a church family that cares. Sunday the Lizardos had the newly initiated over at their house.
“We had a party to celebrate Easter, but also to celebrate them,” Deacon Lizardo said.